New varieties lengthen season

UK: Early, positive start for cherries

The English cherry season has been pushed on by the mild weather throughout the year, a warm period during blossom and then the hot weather a couple of weeks ago has brought the season forward by a week to ten days compared to an 'average' year.

"We just started picking our early varieties Merchant and Vanda," explains Emily Livesey, Fruit Manager at Lower Hope Fruit based in North Herefordshire. "We are not picking everyday yet, next week we will start properly. The fruit is big and the quality is good, we have had a lot of sunlight and dry weather which is very good for cherries."

Kent will be in peak volumes in the next couple of weeks, also boosted by the great weather. Emily said the whole British season has been running a week ahead since flowering back in the spring.

"Last week's real heat wave really pushed it on. The fruit does tend to colour up faster in the heat but the internal maturity is not quite as affected. This week the weather is cooler so it has been held back a bit.

Lower Hope Farms grow 15 different varieties of cherries, the biggest volumes are of the Summer Sun, Stella and Lapins varieties, then they move into Kordia, Karina, Regina and Sweetheart the many varieties serve to lengthen the season. They also have a some new varieties like Gracestar and Korvic which are early mid season varieties.

"Our season will end at the end of August possibly a bit earlier this year but we are hoping to still be picking the Sentennial variety which is a week later than sweetheart."

The British season now runs from early June to mid September, which is much longer that 3-4 years ago when it was just July and August. There are cherry growers from the south of England right up to Scotland, which in addition to new varieties, lengthens the season. Having British cherries on the shelve for longer increases demand from consumers and helps secure shelf space at the retailers.

"Having Spanish fruit on the shelves helps us to start the season, it builds sales and momentum for when the British season starts, as long as our seasons don't clash we don't have a problem, but if the Spanish season is running late and we are early then there would be oversupply, but that is not the case this year as it is dovetailing in quite nicely. It is getting pretty warm in Spain so volumes will start to tail off as the British volumes start increasing."

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